The Closet


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Closet
"Simple in form but packing some serious scares."

What is it about closets? Despite being a fairly modern invention, they tap into some deep, primordial fear, and terrify children the world over. It's not as simple as fear of darkness within them - the fear manifests even where it's easy to seek the back of the closet and observe that there are only mundane things inside it. It's as if, once the doors are closed, we can't be confident that what was behind them before has not been replaced by something else.

Yi Na (Heo Yool) isn't the sort of girl to be easily intimidated. Though she's only 11, she's seen her share of awful things, having lost her mother in a car crash. Her father Sang Won (Ha Jung-woo) spent very little time with her before that, and since, though he's attended to her material needs, emotionally she's been on her own. When he moves them both to a large country house where he thinks it will be easier for her to recover, she becomes fascinated by a large closet in her bedroom. Something isn't right about it. And from time to time, her father suspects, something isn't quite right about her.

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When Yi Na disappears, Jung-woo is at a loss. Police investigations get nowhere and he realises that he is himself the prime suspect. Then a stranger appears at his house with a secret history to relate. He realises that he will have to enter the closet himself if he is to get his daughter back alive.

Simple in form but packing some serious scares, The Closet contains an abundance of monsters which display the viciousness characteristic of Far Eastern ghosts. Yi Na is small for 11 and almost silent in her grief, giving her a fragility that will easily appeal to viewers' protective instincts, but it's just as easy to feel afraid for her father (or oneself) as the action ramps up in the second half. The use of traditional rites and occult rituals is likely to give the film a particular resonance for Korean viewers, whilst for others it will add to the sense of disorientation created by the supernatural elements.

Viewers who love ghost stories for the mystery element are likely to be disappointed by a film which lays its cards on the table early on and doesn't do anything particularly original. Whilst the story arc works well enough and the action scenes are gripping, K-horror fans would be forgiven for thinking that they've seen this before - shadows, knives, scary little girls and all. Ultimately what gives The Closet is power if the sense of trepidation it creates, not what's actually inside.

Reviewed on: 15 Dec 2020
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The Closet packshot
After Sang-Won's daughter Yi-Na goes missing in their new home, a mysterious man approaches him and tells him to look for her in the closet.
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Director: Kim Kwang-bin

Writer: Kim Kwang-bin

Starring: Ha Jung-woo, Heo Yool, Kim Nam-gil, Kim Si-ah

Year: 2020

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: South Korea


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